We have a saying in the Maritimes when someone does something stupid or doesn’t appear to be thinking clearly in some way. Whenever we see someone on self-destruct mode we feel the need, out of love, or concern, and sometimes quite frankly, confusion to say, “Give your head a shake!”
This week a piece was published in the Huffington Post by a writer named Lynn Shepherd entitled: If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It.
Now, if this post had been written by a reader or a critic I would have just given my own head a shake and moved on. Largely people who don’t write novels have no idea what the process entails and as such can be forgiven for making ignorant statements. But Lynn Shepherd is a novelist herself. Never mind the fact that she clearly states she hasn’t read any of J.K Rowling’s books but goes on to demean not just the writer but the author’s readers as well. Never mind that she makes the ridiculous argument that Rowling has ‘had her turn’ and ‘sucks the air’ out of the market so that nobody else can have a chance to sell anything (as if people can only read one writer).
Those things are bad enough, but honestly, that’s not what disturbs me about the piece. Really, Lynn Shepherd’s words are indicative of a bigger problem. Snobbery. Writers are absolutely disgusting to one another at times. If you don’t like what someone is doing it seems totally normal to not just tear them down, but their audience as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people discussing a book they enjoyed only to have someone else come along and make judgements on their intelligence based on the fact that they liked a particular book or writer. Nowhere else in the arts is this as big a problem as it is among the writing community, and frankly, it makes me sick.
Writers get up on their high horses, forgetting that their work is out there to be criticized as well. Shepherd is finding this out the hard way as people have begun giving her books one star reviews on Amazon, stating openly that they haven’t read them. They feel that turnabout is fair play. After all she did the same to J.K Rowling without cracking a page, why shouldn’t they do the same to her? I totally disagree as I’d never review or rate a book I haven’t read, but you have to realize, if you’re going to be a snob and drive a stake through someone’s heart, be prepared to have it driven through your own at some point.
I really believe that instead of focusing on what another writer is doing, a good writer is writing. A true artist is working all the time with their head down and largely not noticing what others are up to. If J.K Rowling sells millions of books and makes millions of people happy, why and how does that have a negative impact on me? You shouldn’t begrudge someone their rewards. As Stephen Pressfield said, “The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.”
None of us really have any control over how our books will be received, but we do have control over our actions. We can choose to behave toward each other with some class or we can belittle someone else’s success by telling ourselves that their stuff is no good and they don’t deserve it anyway because the public is ‘stupid’.
Perhaps if you’re going to do that you need to question why you became a writer in the first place. In other words, give your head a shake!